Sunday, May 01, 2016

New Book: "Millennial Apprentices" by Samuel Friedman

On my flight to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to read a book that had found its way to me by a circuitous route. The author had sent a copy to my lodge back in November (kind of odd, since my contact information is all over the web and I'm really easy to find). I retrieved it from my lodge Secretary, placed it in my apron case the night of our Past Master Degree, and then promptly forgot it was there until April when I was packing for Las Vegas.

So, my deepest public apologies go out to Brother Samuel Friedman, the author of Millennial Apprentice: The Next Revolution in Freemasonry (2015). Brother Friedman is a New York Mason who joined at the age of 21 - just three years ago - and represents three generations of Freemasonry in his family. (His father, Richard Friedman, is currently the Chairman of the Custodians of the Work of the Grand Lodge of New York.)

Brother Samuel has written a book that answers many of the questions that some older Masons are now asking within the fraternity about the generation of men who will succeed them in passing on our traditions. Now normally, I don't care for works that attempt to make broad generalizations about artificial categories of population cohorts. As a "baby boomer" myself, I realized there were huge differences between the men in my so-called generation who were born in 1946 versus those born in 1964. I wasn't part of the group, for instance, who were drafted and did military service in Southeast Asia - I didn't even have to register for Selective Service. I also spent every weekend of my formative teenage years volunteering at a railroad museum, where all of my friends were in their 40s and 50s. So, despite the stereotyped "anti-establishment" mindset that was often ascribed to "boomers," I was extremely conservative in my social, political, and economic views before I could even drive a car. That kind of breaks the generalized mold of what boomers are supposed to be like.

So, I have much the same skepticism when people start discussing "the millennials," who were born between the mid-1980s up to about 2000. In fact, there's nothing quite so disheartening as a room full of Masons in their 70s making organizational plans based on "what young people want." Hell, I'M too old to know myself! So, it's difficult when I speak somewhere and Masons start asking me these kinds of questions. All I can do is make a few guesses and pretend I know.

Brother Samuel Friedman doesn't just guess. He's living through it right now, at the age of 24, with a long and active Masonic family history behind him. More important, he has taken an approach few have done in this fraternity - he's actually researched a stack of independent polls to get a clearer understanding of the philosophical, religious, social, and economic habits of his own age group. Yes, they are of course generalizations, but they are far more useful to us than mere anecdotes and guesses. 

I think his book is important enough to provide more than just a cursory blurb about it, so forgive me if I go on for a while about its contents here (and please don't let this long preview dissuade you from actually investing in the book and reading the whole thing).

First, Samuel is very fond of the "observant lodge" concept. This kind of lodge, promoted by the Masonic Restoration Foundation and thoroughly explored in Andrew Hammer's book, Observing the Craft, is growing in popularity in the U.S. and Canada. There are currently 44 of these lodges at work in 23 states, and their number is growing. While they are not all alike in design or practice, they are usually hallmarked by excellence in ritual, formal attire and white gloves, higher dues, Masonic education at every meeting, and a festive board at a fine local restaurant. They often require longer waiting periods between degrees, and some expect candidates to write a paper about what they have learned before proceeding. They often hold their meetings by candlelight. Some play contemplative music between orders of business. Some place their EA candidates in a Chamber of Reflection before his degree (originally derived from the European Scottish Rite tradition - and in jurisdictions where it is not permitted as part of the ritual, it is simply done before the lodge officially opens). And once a man is raised, he is not immediately pressured into then joining an appendant body, and another, and another. He is instead encouraged to first fully participate in the Blue Lodge and what it has to offer, because he has a lifetime to go join another body if that is his choice. None of these practices are especially shocking or even innovative - and yet, there remain some states that prohibit observant lodges from being chartered (or existing lodges converted) in their jurisdictions. That is short-sighted.

It is Brother Friedman''s contention that these lodges will continue to grow in popularity, especially among millennials. As a group, they tend to have more interest in esoteric subjects like philosophy and symbolism than do many of their older brethren. They expect a high quality lodge experience, and they understand that such a lodge must be paid for. They don't especially look forward to cold spaghetti on paper plates. And they expect the attainment of Masonic degrees to require work beyond simply parroting back memorized questions and answers, or showing up for an "all the way in one day" group event. They expect initiation to be an individual transformative experience, and they don't mind waiting for it. And they fully recognize that lodges that are run this way may not be for everyone's taste.

(On a personal note, I am a member of an observant lodge myself, and while we are successful with close to a 85% participation rate at our quarterly meetings, I don't see them becoming the dominant style of lodges in the future. Rather, I see them as giving visiting Masons individual ideas to take back to their lodges and adopting the features they like.)

In another chapter, Brother Friedman digs into various studies concerning the social fabric of America as it exists today. Right off the bat, he points out that the baby boomers literally changed everything in society from the 1960s forward, in part simply because of their enormous population numbers (over 75 million). From the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, the rebelliousness as a generational force, to music, economics, technology, and much more, the boomers redefined society in ways that shocked the generation that came before them. But what few people realize is that the millennial generation is currently the same size - also 75 million. The two groups taken together now make up more than 25% of the U.S. population. By 2020, according to Samuel's notes, millennials will make up 50% of the nation's labor force, and they are already having a huge influence on social change, just as the boomers had before them.

Samuel cites several studies and sources (mostly not Masonic ones) to establish broad trends for the generation, and several of them are quite surprising. For instance, while boomers had little respect for the older generation, 8 out of 10 millennials tend to believe that older generations have "higher morals," and 60% of them say they consult their parents for advice about adulthood. But he finds that while younger men do not despair that their lodges have many older members than young ones, they do resent being excluded by them from leadership positions and decisions. They dislike it when a lodge or grand lodge is run like a "good ol' boy's club."

Millennials are also the most diverse generation in U.S. history, by race, faith, and sexual orientation. Some 40% of them are racial minorities; 43% are religious minorities; and 70% believe in the legality of gay marriage. As a result, they do not expect their lodges to be overwhelmingly white and Christian, and they absolutely find discrimination to be abhorrent. They are the most highly educated generation the country has ever had, with almost 50% of them between ages 25 and 34 holding a college degree. Just 11% are interested in Masonic history. Only 12% are interested in a lodge or grand lodge's charitable programs. And yet, they are not cheap or uncharitable - a massive 87% say they give $100 or more a year to charity. While the vast majority of them do not attend regular religious services, almost half of them say they pray at least once a week, and 75% describe themselves as "spiritual."  Some 46% of millennial Masons say they joined because they were searching for personal of spiritual knowledge.  All of these results and more give a more well-rounded view of the millennial generation than perhaps many of us have had, and I urge you to seek out this book, if only for this very extensive chapter alone.

Two other chapters of the book are also worth mentioning. In one, Friedman (who is Jewish) describes the highly unusual circumstances of Freemasonry as it is practiced in the troubled nation of Lebanon. He delves deeply into the tumultuous history of that country, and explores its remarkably diverse ethnic and religious society, along with the highly secretive nature of belonging to a Masonic lodge in the nation that is the legendary home of major figures in our ritual. The other chapter is Samuel's personal vision of his utopian Masonic lodge. While not everyone will agree with his ultimate wish list, he certainly provides a different way of looking at lodge practices that might be considered. The U.S. has literally thousands of individual Masonic laboratories for us to experiment in, as long as we stay within the boundaries of our rules and rituals. So, read it with an open mind. You might find something worth trying in your own lodge.

His book is not long - just 135 pages - and you can easily finish it in a couple of hours. But especially if you are in a position of lodge or grand lodge leadership, I highly encourage you to read it. You may agree with some of his observations and vision of Masonry's future, or you may strongly disagree, but I urge you not to simply dismiss it out of hand. The millennials have been joining our lodges for the last several years, and many, many more are on the way. We ignore their opinions and desires at our peril. If lodges fail to adapt to their social and philosophical attitudes, these men will either charter new ones, or simply walk away. As leaders, the choice is ours.

Illuminati Day

Today marks the founding of the Bavarian Illuminati on May 1st, 1776. It lasted less than eight years, and its membership was very, very small. Many other groups followed, even to the present day, claiming the mantle of the original Illuminati, or having that moniker stuck on them without their having asked for it. In fact, in the alternate universe of the Internet, accusations about the “vast influence” of this little-known secret society get thrown around constantly.

Click here for my (possibly a little outdated) story on the very real Illuminati.

That's for all you fear mongers out there. Happy Birthday, Illuminati!

SRRS Releases Index For All "Heredom" Volumes

In March, the Scottish Rite Research Society issued a complete index to Volumes 1 through 23 (1992-2015) of Heredom, the transactions of the Society. The .pdf includes the tables of contents for each individual volume, followed by an index for the complete set.

CLICK HERE for the index.

This will be an invaluable tool for researchers who no longer have to laboriously search through every individual book in search of a long forgotten paper. Many thanks to Illus. S. Brent Morris 33° for this monumental undertaking.

If you are not a member of the SRRS, consider joining (even if you don't belong to the AASR). Members receive an annual hardback copy of Heredom, a quarterly publication called The Plumbline, and a bonus hardback book, each year. Plus, you also get 10% off of purchases from the House of the Temple store.

Membership is just $55 a year. For information, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

2nd World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry & History May 2017

The 2nd World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History (WCFFH) will be held in Paris, France May 26th & 27th, 2017 at the Bibliothèque Nationale - Paris.

Convened by the journal, Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society, in cooperation with the Bibliothèque Nationale, the second World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History: Research in Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society (La Conférence Mondiale sur la Fraternité, la Franc-maçonnerie et l'Histoire, recherche sur les notions de rituel, de secret et leur rapport à la Société civile), focuses on the study of the lasting influence of the Enlightenment, ritual, secrecy, and civil society vis-à-vis the dynamics of scholarship around the world. The conference explores how civil society, social capital, secrecy, and ritual have been important elements during different episodes of local and world histories, and indeed still are. The WCFFH 2017 is a part of the Policy Studies Organization's support of research into associations, civility, and the role of non governmental organizations in democracy.

The conference is on Friday and Saturday. On Wednesday and Thursday there is a workshop at the Museum of Freemasonry on the Chevalier Ramsay and his claims for the origin of Masonry.  Participation is by application. The pre-conference workshop at the Museum of Freemasonry will examine Ramsay's Masonic influence, including the disputed versions of his 1737 oration that had such a large influence on the degrees.  It is also the 300th anniversary of the organization of an English grand lodge.

The conference has a general interest in fraternalism and is not confined to Freemasonry, nor is it under the auspices of any lodge. Rather, it is supported by the National Library of France, the Policy Studies Organization, and the American Public University.

Simultaneous translation French-English, English-French, is offered for all sessions.

No charge is made for registration for the conference, but registration is requested to plan for catering, headsets, and other conference needs. For information and registration please contact PSO Executive Director, Daniel Gutierrez, at 

PLEASE NOTE: Currently, there are 48 papers already listed on the preliminary program page HERE, but from the wording on the site, it seems that papers are still welcome. If you are interested in participating in the program, I highly suggest contacting Daniel Gutierrez as soon as possible.
To watch videos of presentations at the 2015 Conference, CLICK HERE.

My Websites Are Down Briefly

I'm aware that all of my websites have been down for several days now. Yes, I paid all of my bills.

My hosting service is changing their servers to a new system and gave everyone until the end of April to switch over. I'm a computer ignoramus when it comes to server nomenclature, so I did what everybody does once they get old - I offered to pay somebody else to solve the problem. 

So, they are in the process of switching over the sites and I hope to have it all back up by Monday. Thanks to everyone who wrote to tell me.

Doing Business on the Entered Apprentice Degree

Brother Michael Poll looks at at the practice and benefits of conducting business on the Entered Apprentice degree, its history in the U.S., and the possible reasons for changing to doing business on the Master Mason degree in the mid 1800's.

There are good talking points here for those attempting to get their grand lodge to re-allow the practice.

Quatuor Coronati Lodge Conference: 300 Years of the Grand Lodge of England 9/9-11

UGLE's lodge of research, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, will host the Tercentenary Conference on The History of Freemasonry: Celebrating 300 Years of the Grand Lodge of England 1717 – 2017. This event will be held September 9-11, 2016 on the historic campus of Queens' College at the University of Cambridge, founded in 1448.

The three day conference will include more than 45 of the most internationally known Masonic scholars who will speak on a wide range of topics. A complete program can be seen HERE. The presentations made at the conference will be collected and later published as a book.

Also, the Prestonian Lecture for 2016 by Dr. Richard (Ric) Berman will be presented Friday morning in a special tyled meeting of QC lodge, to be held at Cambridge Masonic Hall. (Apart from this lecture, the rest of the conference is open to the public.)

Reservations for the conference may be made at the University of Cambridge site HERE. Cost for all three days for non-members of QC Lodge is £175 (currently US$255), and there are several options at reduced prices for attending fewer days. Accommodations and various meal packages for the weekend are offered on the campus of the College.

A brochure with prices, lodging information, schedules, and more can be seen HERE.

For questions, contact the QC Lodge directly at

Friday, April 29, 2016

Louisiana Masons to Confer "Vacant Chair Degree" to Honor Fallen Soldiers 5/30

(PLEASE NOTE: The date that was originally sent to me and posted here last night was incorrect! If you marked your calendar or shared this event on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere prior to noon today, please make sure you go back and pass the word that the actual date is May 30th!)

Eastern Star Lodge No. 151 in Winnfield, Louisiana will host a Memorial Day event at the Beville Street Lodge Hall on May 30th, 2016 at 7:00 PM.

The Brethren of Eastern Star Lodge, O. K. Allen Lodge No. 33, and Pelican Civil War Lodge #1861 have  all joined together and will confer the beautiful and moving “Vacant Chair Degree.”  This formerly secret ritual was created to honor Master Masons who died serving  in the various wars fought since the founding of our country.  Recently it was modified to honor all soldiers killed in battle, and was opened to the public.  
Be assured this is not the Vacant Chair Ritual you are familiar with, or as we like to say, "This ain't your daddy's Vacant Chair Degree," but is an entirely new take on an old idea. 
Due to extensive programming on the History Channel along with popular movies and books referencing Freemasonry that have appeared in recent years, there has been a dramatic rise in interest in all things Masonic.  By allowing everyone to witness the stark beauty of this ritual, we hope, in a small way to satisfy that interest.  If you have ever been curious about Freemasonry or Masonic Rituals, this is a must see event for you.
We hope you find time to attend and help us honor those who died that we might be free. To die for one's country is the highest act of a patriotic citizen and deserves the highest honor.  They spent their blood in defense of our American way of life and we must never forget that a great debt is owed to those who served and died.  
It is a debt which we can never repay.

The ceremony will begin at 7:00 PM, and it is open to the public. Everyone is invited. Please bring your friends and family and experience this unique Masonic ritual.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Massachusetts' PHA GL Plans Boston Hotel Development

Only two years ago, the MWPHGL of Massachusetts' grand lodge building in the Dorchester area of Boston was reported to be just a week away from foreclosure, and the auction was averted at the last minute when an agreement was struck with the lender and donations rolled in from the Masonic community.

Now, there are plans afoot to develop the valuable property into a hotel and conference center. From yesterday's Bay State Banner:

Prince Hall Freemasons from around the world came to Boston last weekend to celebrate the founding of their organization, the oldest black Masonry group. While the Masons commemorated the branch’s colonial roots — beginning with an Irish soldier’s initiation of the first black Freemasons in 1775 and made official with the issuing of a charter in 1784 — members of the local Prince Hall Grand Lodge also have been looking to their lodge’s future.  
Local members are considering redeveloping Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Roxbury into a combination hotel and conference center, with full-service, sit-down restaurants, lodge member Louis Elisa informed the Banner. Prince Hall Grand Lodge has served the community for years as a site for concerts, meetings and rallies. But some say the current building does not tap the property’s full potential. 
The lodge is a sizable presence on Washington Street, occupying one of only three one-acre parcels in Grove Hall, noted Grove Hall Main Streets executive director Ed Gaskin. As such, the use Masons select for the property will have a major impact on the economic development of the area, Gaskin told the Banner. 
“There are not many parcels [here] that are that large. How they’re used is a determinant of the economic development of the area,” Gaskin said. “Right now we have a large parcel that is basically underdeveloped and underutilized.” 
The parcel’s proximity to local attractions enhances the potential of any development on the site, City Councilor Tito Jackson said.  
“There’s a great deal of potential for the space,” Jackson said. “[It is at] a very attractive location, particularly because it is blocks away from an 18-hole golf course. It is in Grove Hall, which is centrally located and very close to the airport,” he said. 
Prince Hall Grand Lodge has established a nine-member project planning committee, and groups like Grove Hall Main Streets have participated in discussions. 
Elisa is one of those planning committee members. The hotel-conference proposal is in the early concept stage, he said, and the committee is fleshing out its idea for the site before presenting it for community response. 
The current proposal is for 300 parking spaces and a six-to-eight-story building that comprises a 250-unit three- or four-star hotel, conference center and at least two first-class, full-service restaurants, Elisa said. Other ideas include placing a Grove Hall history and Prince Hall Masonry history museum in the building and providing office space separate from the hotel-conference complex. He anticipated a cost of $40 million or more, with project completion in five years.
It is unclear from the article whether the Grand Lodge plans to keep its offices and lodge room in the new complex, or move to another location. For the complete article, CLICK HERE. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Freemasonry Role Probed in UK Hillsborough Tragedy

A coroner's inquest case in England has been decided by a jury, some 27 years after 96  football fans were crushed to death during the FA Cup semi-final match at Sheffield Wednesday stadium in Hillsborough on April 15th, 1989. 

The inquest is believed to have been the longest in that country's history, lasting more than 300 days, and held in a specially built courtroom. The terrible tragedy has been investigated several times over the years, and the verdict today finally and officially put the blame for the disaster largely on the local police and ambulance services.

The deaths were ruled accidental at the end of a 1991 inquest. But those verdicts were reversed by an independent panel review report in 2012, which concluded that a major cover-up on the part of police and others had taken place to avoid the blame for the events. The jury today decided that blunders by the police and EMS personnel had "caused or contributed" to the disaster, and that the victims had been "unlawfully killed."

The story has gripped the public over the years, and the inquest was finally held only after a major campaign was mounted by enraged families of the victims, who regard the verdict as a great victory. The jury ruled that the authorities were responsible for the unlawful killings, and more important, that fan behavior did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.

The chain of events occurred at the stadium after South Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield ordered an exit gate to be opened behind one of the goals, allowing 2,000 Liverpool fans to rush in to an area that was already jammed with spectators. According to the jury's findings, the police and ambulance services caused the deaths by an "error of omission," and the police caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that led to the deaths. They also found that the design and layout of the stadium was partially to blame as well, and named the consulting engineers for the stadium as partially responsible. 

According to a very long and very detailed article in today's Telegraph, the jury stated, 

"Police delayed calling a major incident so the appropriate emergency response was delayed. 
"There was a lack of co-ordination, command and control which delayed or prevented appropriate responses."
On the role of former South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (Symas), the jury said: "Symas officers at the scene failed to ascertain the nature of the problem at Leppings Lane. The failure to recognise and call a major incident led to delays in the responses to the emergency."
Prosecutors will determine if criminal charges should be filed pertaining to the events of the disaster, or claims of a coverup in its aftermath. Those investigations should wrap up by the end of the year. 

Families of the 96 are rightfully rejoicing, as their allegations and concerns have at last been vindicated after nearly three decades.

So why am I writing about this on a Masonic blog? Because it has long been alleged by the public and the press that Freemasons on the local police force helped to cover up the actions of their members. The jury did not address the alleged role of the fraternity in the actions of local authorities after the disaster, but evidence was introduced into the proceedings over the matter. It was not a part of their ultimate findings.

From an earlier version of the article that has since been rewritten:
The question of whether Freemason membership influenced decision-making over the Hillsborough disaster has been probed by the police watchdog.

Overall match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his local lodge - a worshipful master - the year after the 1989 disaster.

He said he did not know if his promotion within South Yorkshire Police in the weeks before the tragedy was influenced by his membership of the so-called "secret society", but added: "I would hope not." 
His predecessor Brian Mole, now dead, had also been a member of the same lodge, jurors were told. 
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), as part of its overall investigation into alleged criminality and misconduct, has examined concerns from the Hillsborough families over Freemason membership. 
The United Grand Lodge of England has provided information including historical attendance records of meetings. 
This has enabled investigators to assess whether there may be some correlation with individuals involved in decision-making around Hillsborough, according to the IPCC. 
The hearings in Warrington also heard evidence from a police constable who said he had heard "a substantial meeting" of senior officers, including allegedly Mr Duckenfield, took place in the days after the disaster. 
The officer said it was rumoured that most of the officers were Masons and it was said they were trying to blame Superintendent Roger Marshall for asking for the exit gate at Leppings Lane to be opened. 
Coroner Sir John Goldring later warned the jury that there was "not a shred of evidence" that such a meeting ever took place or that all of those named were Freemasons. 
He advised them to put the "gossip and hearsay" to one side. 
Giving evidence, Mr Duckenfield said he was unaware if his boss, Chief Constable Peter Wright, was also a Freemason. 
He said: "I can't say whether he was or he wasn't. What I am saying is within my knowledge in the whole of the Sheffield/Yorkshire area, and in my lodge, he certainly wasn't a Freemason, and it wasn't customary in those days, because a situation had arisen where it was unfashionable, or some people thought unacceptable, to be a Freemason in a senior police position."
A similarly worded article DOES appear in The Mirror this afternoon. And naturally, the Daily Mail attempted to sensationalize the Masonic aspect of the story that clearly took up a very miniscule portion of the 300 day proceedings. 

There is a long history of public distrust of members of law enforcement and the judiciary in the UK who are openly or privately members of the fraternity, and sadly, this case has been a hotbed for these kinds of rumors to flourish. 

In 1997, the  Home Secretary, Jack Straw, enacted a law requiring all police officers, judges, and magistrates who were Masons to publicly declare their membership.  Only Freemasonry was singled out for this national register. At the time, it was disclosed that just 5% of judges  in the UK were Masons, along with 6% of all magistrates. After 12 years, the law was rescinded after the European Union Court of Human Rights declared a similar requirement in Italy to be in violation of EU laws against discrimination. The UGLE threatened a lawsuit, and the law was dropped. 

Despite his 12 year witch hunt, in a Guardian article in 2009, Straw was forced to admit, 
[T]hat the 1997 report "made no finding of impropriety in the conduct of the judiciary arising from membership of individual members of the judiciary of the freemasons".
Judges and magistrates are no longer required to publicly declare their membership. However, it is my understanding that a voluntary public register still exists for police officers who hold Masonic membership. It is unclear how many cops have complied with the somewhat fuzzy rule.

And a new move is underway in Wales to resurrect a required registry by an old accolade of Straw's. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Alpha Military Lodge In Afghanistan

At one time, military lodges were a common phenomenon, but around WWI they fell out of favor among U.S. grand lodges. (See my post from 2010, "Where are our military lodges?") But in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, they have made a few comebacks, most commonly under Prince Hall charters (although, Canadian Grand Lodges have also chartered a handful, and the GL of Nebraska chartered Swisher Lodge in Afghanistan a few years ago). Masonry is looked upon with great suspicion by the population in Islamic-dominated countries, so these lodges must be discrete and are restricted only to military and contractor personnel. 

Alpha Military Lodge No. 195 is located at Bagram Airfield in Northeast, Afghanistan. Their membership includes both military and civilian personnel. Alpha Military Lodge No. 195 is under the MWPHGL of Oklahoma jurisdiction, District 15, where Ronnie L. Scott is the District Deputy Grand Master. They have also established several appendant bodies that work at the base.

From their history page:
It all started around February of 2005. Ronnie L. Scott had a vision of starting a Lodge on Bagram AFB. While there was already a Lodge existing from the brothers of 25th ID out of Hawaii it would of course only be temporary. The vision was to start a Lodge here that would be something more than temporary. When Military units come to Bagram they work well but usually spend most of their deployment trying to get brothers together to start something. By the time a Lodge is up and running it is usually time to head back home. If you have a Lodge that is a permanent staple then Masonry would not take a backseat to deployments. This is what Mr. Scott and a host of others had in mind. At first there were only small meetings in and around BAF. Comprised of only a few, this went on for several months. In May of 05 Mr. Scott went on leave and came back with a Dispensation to do Lodge work from the great state of Oklahoma. That was the just the beginning of something more to come. The Dispensation allowed the brothers here to continue with something they had a deep love for. While it was not a full Charter it did grant Alpha Military Lodge the same rights and benefits as any other established Lodge in the states. From that time on open houses were established to help anyone that may have had questions about Freemasonry, and to also see the positive things that we do for the community. Community response was tremendous. Alpha military Lodge was also working closely with another military lodge called M.L.K. Lodge #151 out of Germany. This was historical considering you had 2 different lodges from 2 different jurisdictions doing work together.  
In June of 2006 Alpha Military Lodge was granted a full Warrant and Charter to operate as a Lodge in Bagram from the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. Since the beginning of its conception Alpha Military Lodge and its members have strived to provide the community of Bagram with the same things that any lodge in the states or overseas would. We give unselfishly to those in the area that are without. We donate clothes and toys to the children and citizens in Afghanistan and help the medical units here with the burned and injured by visiting the hospitals. Alpha Military Lodge #195 is and will continue to be a solid foundation in the Bagram and Afghanistan Community.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Masonic Altar

Photo by Bill Bradford

Excerpted from the Short Talk Bulletin Vol. 2, No. 2, "The Altar," published in 1924 (author unknown):
As far back as we can go the Altar was the center of human society, and an object of peculiar sanctity by virtue of that law of association by which places and things are consecrated.  It was a place of refuge for the hunted or the tormented - criminals or slaves - and to drag them away from it by violence was held to be an act of sacrilege, since they were under the protection of God. At the Altar, marriage rites were solemnized, and treaties made or vows taken in its presence were more Holy and binding than if made elsewhere, because, there man invoked God as witness.  In all the religions of antiquity, and especially among peoples who worshipped the light, it was the usage of both Priests and people to pass around the Altar following the course of the sun - from the East, by way of the South, to the West - singing hymns of praise as a part of their worship.  Their ritual was thus an allegorical picture of the truth which underlies all religion - that man must live on earth in harmony with the rhythm and movement of heaven. 
From facts and hints such as these we begin to see the meaning of the Altar in Masonry, and the reason for its position in the Lodge.  In English Lodges, as in the French and the Scottish Rites, it stands in front of the Master in the East.  In the York Rite, so called, it is placed in the center of the Lodge - more properly a little to the East of the center - about which all Masonic activities revolve.  It is not simply a necessary piece of furniture, a kind of table intended to support the Holy Bible, the Square and Compasses.  Alike by its existence and its situation it identifies Masonry as a religious institution, and yet its uses are not exactly the same as the offices of an Altar in a Cathedral or a Shrine.  Here is a fact often overlooked, and we ought to get it clearly in our minds. 
The position of the Altar in the Lodge is not accidental, but is profoundly significant.  For, while Masonry is not a religion, it is religious in its faith and basic principles, no less than in its spirit and purpose.  And yet it is not a Church.  Nor does it attempt to do what the Church is trying to do.  If it were a Church its Altar would be in the East and its Ritual would be altered accordingly.  That is to say, Masonry is not a religion, much less a sect, but a worship in which all men can unite because it does not undertake to explain, or dogmatically to settle in detail, those issues by which men are divided.  Beyond the Primary, fundamental facts of faith it  does not go.  With the philosophy of those facts, and the differences and disputes growing out of them, it has not to do.  In short, the position of the Altar in the Lodge is a symbol of what Masonry believes the Altar should be in actual life, a center of division, as is now so often the case.  It does not seek fraternity of spirit, leaving each one free to fashion his own philosophy of ultimate truth.  As we may read in the Constitutions of 1723: 
“A Mason is obliged, by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, not an irreligious Libertine.  But though in ancient Times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the Religion of the Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ‘tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and True, or Men of Honor and Honesty, by whatever denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.” 
Surely those are memorable words, a Magna Carta of friendship and fraternity.  Masonry goes hand in hand with religion until religion enters the field of sectarian feud, and there it stops; because Masonry seeks to unite men, not to divide them.  Here then, is the meaning of the Masonic Altar and its position in the Lodge.  It is first of all, an Altar of Faith - deep, eternal Faith which underlies all creeds and over-arches all sects.
The Altar of Freemasonry is an Altar of Freedom - not freedom FROM faith, but freedom OF faith. Beyond the fact of the reality of God it does not go, allowing every man to think of God according to his experience of life and his vision of truth. It does not define God, much less dogmatically determine how and what men shall think or believe about God; there dispute and division begin.
"No man could tell me what my soul might be;  
I sought for God and He has eluded me;  
I sought my Brother out and found all three."

Here one fact more, and the meaning of the Masonic Altar will be plain. Often one enters a great church, like Westminster Abbey, and finds it empty, or only a few people in the pews here and there, praying or in deep thought. They are sitting quietly, each without reference to the others, seeking an opportunity for the soul to be alone, to communicate with mysteries greater than itself, and find healing for the bruising of life. But, no one ever goes to a Masonic altar alone. No one bows before it at all except when the Lodge is open and in the presence of his Brethren. It is an Altar of Fellowship, as it is to teach us that no man can learn the truth for another, and no man can learn it alone. Masonry brings men together in mutual respect, sympathy, and good will, that we may learn in love the truth that is hidden by apathy and lost by hate.

Grand Orient of the Netherlands Suspends With Tennessee & Georgia

The Grand Orient of the Netherlands, the governing Masonic body in the country that is largely recognized by the majority of regular grand lodges around the world, has announced on their official Facebook page that they have suspended fraternal relations with the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. They are the second grand lodge outside of the U.S. to do so, after the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium.

The original message can be seen HERE in Dutch, for those with a Facebook account. 

From a combination of Google's and Facebook's translator programs (anyone who speaks the language please notify me if I have mis-translated the message in any way):

Executive order of Masons: 
Freemasonry and homosexuality can go together
At the beginning of March there appeared social media internet reports about the official and ongoing exclusion of homosexual candidates by the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the [expulsion] from the membership among the active members who turn out to be homosexual. The National Executive Committee of the order of Masons is of the opinion that this is contrary to the fundamental values of Freemasonry and approved a study at the beginning of March to ensure the accuracy of these messages.
During this investigation the committee found messages that the Grand Lodge of Tennessee [does this, as well]. Unfortunately, this appears with both grand lodges to be true. During the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee's [there was] recently introduced a resolution to remove the line [specifying this from their] "Code of Regulations", but this was rejected. The Grand Lodge of Georgia made a public edict with a clear anti-gay application in September 2015.
The National Executive Committee has therefore decided to immediately suspend relations with the two Grand Lodges  on April 16. Both grand lodges shall be informed of this. Visiting with  lodges connected with these jurisdictions is therefore no longer [permitted] for members of our order. Also, receiving members of these organizations in Dutch Lodges is no longer permitted.
The final [severing] of the relationship with the two Grand Lodges belongs to the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient, the annual meeting of the affiliated Lodges, which must decide on this issue in June 2016.

Templar Church in London

For those who have a deep and abiding interest in all things Knights Templar, check out the blog Flickering Lamps' entry on London's Temple Church from last February - particularly if you've never had the opportunity to visit it in person. It features many beautiful photographs of the church, especially the interior, and much history.


The blog's author, "Caroline," lives in London and her site features a treasure trove of material on churches, cemeteries, castles, and many other historic sites, from the Bronze Age, through the medieval, gothic,  renaissance, and neo-classical ages, right up to today.

If you are traveling to London and intend on visiting the Temple Church, please be sure to visit the Church's official website HERE. Their hours can vary, special events can occur, and other circumstances can affect the chances of getting inside. More than one eager tourist has turned up from halfway around the world, only to find it closed. In fact, the website suggests that you specifically email the Verger directly at or call him at 020 7353 3470.

Many Online Resources on Masonic Renewal Committee Website

A hallmark of Masonic grand lodges is the never-ending practice of reinventing the wheel when it comes to developing leadership and lodge management courses of instruction. Time after time, grand lodges seek ways to teach lodge officers about how to become better leaders, develop programs, promote them for a year or two, then forget about them, and do the whole thing all over again in about 8 or 10 years.

The Masonic Renewal Committee of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America  has attempted to collect as many of these leadership programs online, and make them available in one place. This allows members and officers an opportunity to discover how their own jurisdiction and others across the country have handled this eternally vexing situation in the recent past. 

In addition to leadership programs, there are many others as well, covering awards, education and advancement, grand lodge committees, member retention and development, and secretaries' resources.  To see them, CLICK HERE.

The very extensive (and growing) site also has a large collection of online Masonic documents on a huge array of topics. Check out the MRC library HERE.

Quarry Project Masonic Writing Style Guide

The Quarry Project Style Guide is an effort to establish consistent style for US Masonic writers and publishers—of periodicals, books, and websites. 

Masonic authors, especially those who seek to have their research articles or books published, should have a copy of the Guide. Created over a period of several years, it is based on the "Chicago Style," as presented in Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 8th ed.but with additions peculiar to terminology for the fraternity itself. It seeks to standardize conventions commonly found in Masonic writing, such as capitalization, abbreviations, official officer titles, and many others. The Guide gives direction on source citation, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, numbers, abbreviations, quotations, tables, figures, and format. Users of the Quarry Project Style Guide also need a copy of Turabian's book. (Be sure not to use her lower-level book, Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers.)

The Masonic Society and the Masonic Library and Museum Association came together to sponsor the first Quarry Project, a conference and workshop on Masonic research and preservation, held at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia on September 27–29, 2013. The conference drew from both the Masonic and academic communities to provide detailed instruction on Masonic research and the editing of the results. Additionally, a set of voluntary standards for future Masonic research, writing, and editing were introduced. Professional librarians, museum curators, and experts on display and preservation provided practical instruction and advice on maintaining and improving Masonic historical repositories. Multiple concurrent presentations were offered on all three days.
In 2015, TMS, MLMA, and the Masonic Information Center of the Masonic Service Association of North America teamed up again for The Quarry Project: Phase II, in part, to continue the development of the Style Guide.  A list of Masonic publications and publishers that have adopted its guidelines can be found here.
The result can be found on the Quarry Project website, or can be downloaded as a pdf file HERE. 

Andrew Hammer in Detroit May 7th

Join the Michigan Lodge of Research and Information No. 1 on Saturday, May 7th for their biennial Lou B. Winsor Lecture with special guest, WB Andrew Hammer, for a night of Masonic education and fellowship at the incredible Detroit Masonic Temple.

Andrew is a Past Master of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 in Alexandria Virginia, and President of the Masonic Restoration Foundation. He serves on the Board of Directors of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, and is author of Observing the Craft

6:00 PM: Social Hour/Meet and Greet - Second Floor Lobby
7:00 PM: Lecture - Romanesque Lodge Room
8:00 PM: Dinner - First Floor Mezzanine Lounge

The $35 ticket price includes a social hour with refreshments, a meet and greet with Worshipful Brother Hammer, dinner, and the lecture. (L
ecture-only tickets are not available.) This event is open to all regular MASTER MASONS in good standing. Andrew will have books available for purchase. 

Tickets must be purchased in advance via the EVENTBRITE WEBSITE HERE and will NOT be available at the door.  Recording devices during the lecture are strictly prohibited.

For questions or more information, contact:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

GL of Maryland To Honor John Paul Jones Sunday

Brother John Paul Jones, Revolutionary War father of the United States Navy, will be honored on Sunday by Maryland Freemasons

From today's edition of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland:
Several hundred Freemasons will honor famed naval leader John Paul Jones Sunday with a belated memorial service at the Naval Academy. 
While it has been 110 years since Jones' remains brought to Annapolis from France, to rest in a crypt under the academy chapel, Freemasons learned only within the past year that the Revolutionary War hero had been one of them — a member of the oldest fraternal organization in the world. [See below]
"We were going through records and realized a ceremony had never taken place," said Tom Foster, director of communications for the Grand Lodge of Maryland. 
Any mason who dies is entitled to a Masonic funeral service, Foster said."It's the final honor that we can bestow on our departed brother," he said. "Better late than never." 
On Sunday, between 200 and 300 Freemasons from across the country — wearing tuxedos, aprons and "all the accouterments that come with that" — will gather at the Annapolis lodge before embarking on a procession to the academy's Dahlgren Hall, Foster said. 
"It'll be a spectacle," he said. 
The ceremony will feature remarks about Jones, his service and his masonry, as well as a color guard, a hymn and the playing of "Taps." 
Foster said the Masons will pass the boat show, but will do their best to stay on the sidewalks. 
"We just ask for a little patience as we proceed through the streets," he said.
The reporter misinterpreted Brother Foster, which is not uncommon. It has long been known that Jones was a Mason, and a Short Talk Bulletin was published about him in April 1998. 

He was born in Kirkeudbright, Scotland on July 6th, 1747, with the name "John Paul" (he later added "Jones" after arriving in America, reportedly to escape a run in with the law). He petitioned St. Bernard Lodge No. 3122 in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, and was initiated on November 27, 1770. According to a biography of him in the Naval Department Library:
He had attended the local masonic lodge of Fredericksburg, Virginia (1774-1775) to which Washington had long been a member. On 16 August 1779, John Paul Jones made application to become affiliated with the Masonic Lodge of Les Neuf Soeurs (the Nine Sisters), at Paris. Two of the foremost men of the age were the members of this lodge, Dr. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire. On 1 May 1780, the Lodge of the Nine Sisters (the Nine Muses) held a great festival and received Jones into its membership. At the same time it commissioned one of the world's greatest sculptors, Jean Antoine Houdon, to make a life size marble bust of Jones.

According to the 1998 STB, 
"In 1788 he accepted an appointment from Empress Catherine of Russia as a Rear Admiral in the Russian Navy. He commanded a Naval force on the Black Sea fighting the Turks and was instrumental in winning several engagements for the Russian fleet. It is said that Empress Catherine, herself anti-Masonic, found that Jones was a proud member of the Craft and for this reason discharged him with full pay. He returned to France and shortly before his death retired from her service."


The capital Gazette published a small gallery of photos from Sunday's event. See it HERE.

2016 Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium in Asheville, NC 8/19-21

The 7th annual Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium has been announced, and will take place  from August 19-21, 2016 at the Asheville Masonic Temple in Asheville, North Carolina. Meetings will be held in both the Lodge Room and the Theatre. 

Since 2001, the Masonic Restoration Foundation (MRF) has been examining the issues facing North American Freemasonry, identifying successful both current and historical practices, and offering realistic solutions aimed at improving the experience of Masonic labor. The annual MRF Symposium is a meeting place for Masons who are seeking the highest form of Masonic experience they can attain within their lodges, while strictly conforming to the laws, resolutions, and edicts of their respective grand lodges. It is a gathering for those who pursue quality in the Craft to share ideas and discuss their work. 

This year's Symposium will kick off with a Festive Board in the Temple Dining Hall on Friday night, conducted by Sophia Lodge No. 767, North Carolina's first observant lodge, located in Salisbury, NC. The evening will feature Keynote Speaker, Robert L. D. Cooper, Curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.  Robert is a Past Master of Lodge Edinburgh Castle No. 1764, and a Past Master of England's Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. He is a renowned Masonic historian, and author of Cracking the Freemason's Code and The Rosslyn Hoax. He is a principal organizer of the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry [ICHF], and he has written a number of articles on how Freemasonry is practiced in Scotland. Dress code for the evening will be tuxedo (preferred), or dark suit.

Speakers presenting on Saturday will include: Don Barrier, John Bizzack, John Burchfield, Douglas Caudle, Robert L.D. Cooper, Patrick Craddock, Shawn Eyer, Milton B. Fitch , Andrew Hammer, Joseph Kindoll, Christopher Murphy, Chad Simpson, Ben Wallace, and MW Bryant Webster, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to see a Master Mason degree conferred by the two N.C. observant lodges, Veritas Lodge No. 769 (from Asheville), and Sophia Lodge No. 767. 

Registration for the Symposium is $125.00, and $75.00 for Saturday's session only.

For a complete program of this event, presenter bios, registration info, and lodging suggestions, visit the Symposium website HERE.